Lindsay Thurber Raiders Ethan Potts drives in for a try as Hunting Hills Lightning player Nathan LaVigne attempts the tackle in senior boys high school rugby action at Titans Park on Friday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Raiders top Lightning in senior high school rugby

Raiders 15 Lightning 7

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders bent but didn’t break in senior boys high school rugby action Friday night.

Despite possession leaning heavily in favour of the Hunting Hills Lightning, the Raiders pulled out a 15-7 victory at Titans Park.

It was just the second game of the season after the long winter delayed the start of the year, but Raiders coach Dean Plant said it was a heck of an effort from his squad early in the campaign.

“Defensively we played very well. If you look at possession, percentage wise they had the ball more than we did. When we got the ball we made a lot of mistakes. There’s a lot of new guys out here– guys that aren’t rugby players, but you try to mold them into players,” he said.

“We played with a lot of heart. I don’t remember seeing a lot of missed tackles. Considering [Hunting Hills] had the ball 70 per cent of the time and we still won the game, that shows a lot of what we did out there.”

Max Arnold, Ethan Potts, and Theo Ollewagen all scored tries for the Raiders while Mike Thomas scored for Hunting Hills.

Both teams battled back and forth early in the game before Lindsay Thurber picked up a try just before the half.

After two straight tries, Hunting Hills scored late and were mounting a comeback before time expired.

“(Hunting Hills) wanted to beat us for us. I knew it was going to be close, but I knew we had a little bit of fire back there and if we got them the ball we could open them up,” Plant said.

“Wyatt Hawkes, Sean Vandervlis, Max Arnold, Ethan Potts and Theo Ollewagen, they can slice and dice. It’s good, it was fun, I was happy with the result because it could have gone either way.”

Plant added that the calibre of rugby was high on Friday night and he said it’s nice to see the development of the sport in Red Deer.

“It was fun to watch. It’s nice to see the level of rugby coming up and that’s due to the U15 program here. What’s happening is we’re getting players that know what they’re doing,” Plant said.

Senior Girls

Raiders 22 Lightning 15

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders senior girls also earned a win in their first match of the season, outlasting the Hunting Hills Lightning 22-15 on Friday night at Titans Park.

Raiders coach Bill Bowd said his group is relatively inexperienced and there was a lot to learn in game one.

“Probably three-quarters of those girls, it was the first time they’ve ever been on a rugby field. For that first game, they played really well. They tackled hard and they ran the ball unbelievably well. Very impressed with their first game,” Bowd said.

The teams traded tries for most of the night but a pair of Thurber scores midway through the game made the difference. Katelyn Bottomley, Mackenzie Partridge, Anna Judd and Kasidee Heibert all scored for the Raiders in the win.

Bowd added the biggest lesson they learned in the opener was to be physical and after he watched his team play the boys in a scrimmage earlier in the year, he knew they were ready for Friday.

“The number one thing is it’s physical, you have to be prepared to get hit and hit people. That’s the number one thing,” he said.

“Be physical and our girls were physical, they were not afraid.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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Hunting Hills Lightning player Olivia Watson tackles Lindsay Thurber Raiders’ Caylin Hollingsworth in senior girls high school rugby play at Titans Park on Friday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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